On a chilly Wednesday afternoon, boys and girls from San Ysidro gathered on a grassy field for a game of soccer like no other. They were given sheets of paper with numbers on them and lined up on either side of the goal post, preparing to not just run down the field, but to do math. Their coach yelled out a math problem, and those who were holding the answer had to kick a soccer ball between orange cones and get the ball into the goal as fast as they could.

Pairing soccer with math was a no-brainer for Casa Familiar to get neighborhood kids excited about both physical activity and Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) learning.

“We’re building STEAM  awareness,” Lisa Cuestas, Casa Familiar’s COO, said.

“When we asked parents a year ago if they knew what it was, they didn’t know.”

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Kicking Up a New Approach to STEAM Learning

Casa Familiar’s after-school program has zeroed in on creating STEAM opportunities for children in K-12, benefitting more than 100 kids. Their goal is to put San Ysidro on the map for STEAM education and by connecting physical activity to learning, Casa is able to engage children through something they love: soccer.

“Science and engineering of the sport is very important to the pro players,” Lisa said.

Casa plans to work with players from Tijuana’s professional soccer team, The Xolos, and may even work with the L.A. Galaxy.

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Students have learned how to measure out a soccer field and even measured the distance from San Ysidro to where their favorite soccer player in the world plays.

For parent Maria Hernandez, seeing her 10-year-old son Ian make more friends while developing his skills in science has been very rewarding.

“It’s good he’s involving himself with the community so he can decide what he wants to do later in life,” Maria said.

Maria said Ian has participated in Casa’s after-school program for three years and it’s helped him to develop skills for working on projects at school.

For after-school teacher and counselor Ignacio Gomez, he said it’s especially important to work with high school students and get them excited about STEAM opportunities so they stay in school.
“Every kid coming through school has to find their niche,” Ignacio said.

“Kids stay in school because of programs. We want to connect them to something and change the statistics of Latinos in STEAM.”


Putting San Ysidro on the Map for STEAM Education

Casa Familiar plans to grow their STEAM programming in the next year to include even more ways to actively engage students with important science curriculum. One way they’ve been able to do this is through vital partnerships with other organizations committed to changing the STEAM landscape.

Through a grant from SDG&E, Casa Familiar was able get tailor-made soccer curriculum that implements Common Core teaching for their after-school program through a partnership with nonprofit Science of Sport.

Casa’s partnerships enhance the education students receive at school by connecting creative learning, arts and culture and collaboration to promote STEAM opportunities for San Ysidro.

Thirty-five middle school and high school students will participate in “Innovation Lab” earlier next year, where students are challenged to address a need in their community with a tech-based solution and present their proposal in front of a panel.

By partnering with the San Ysidro Education Vanguard Foundation, Casa has also been able to offer a Lego robotics program that they plan to grow early next year.

Lisa said Casa’s after-school programs not only benefit the children, but the entire family and the community.

“It’s a family service,” Lisa said.

“Parents get really excited because their kids come home with a new vocabulary.”

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